Inside Slant: Vermeil Sits Sims and Hicks Down

Dick Vermeil, who claims to have seen teammates fist-fighting on airplanes, says patching up the brief war of words between defensive linemates Eric Hicks and Ryan Sims was no big deal.

"I put both parties in the room with me at the same time behind closed doors," Vermeil said of his Sunday meeting with Hicks and Sims, who exchanged angry words in the presence of reporters following Kansas City's 45-20 drubbing Saturday in Minnesota. "We aired the problems and vented them, then came into a squad meeting and talked about it.

"I think the only thing to come of this will be a positive, not a negative," he added. "It demonstrated how much they care about winning and how much they hate losing."

Now, if patching up the leaky Kansas City defense was only that easy.

For the second time in as many road games, Kansas City met a playoff-contending opponent facing a must-win situation and got pounded. For a second straight time in a road game, the Chiefs gave up 45 points as they continued their stumble to the NFL finish line.

The Vikings jumped out to a 31-0 advantage by scoring on four of their first five possessions to send the Chiefs reeling to the worst defeat ever in the Vermeil era.

The Chiefs defense was simply horrid. Daunte Culpepper hit 18 of his first 23 passes for 240 of his eventual 260 yards and three touchdowns. Randy Moss brought his A game to the Metrodome and burned the Chiefs for 111 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.

Rookie Onterrio Smith ran through the porous Kansas City rushing defense for 146 of the Vikes' 223 ground yards. He scored two of his three touchdowns within four minutes after the Chiefs closed to 31-20 and hinted at making a game of it with just over 10 minutes remaining.

But as bad as Kansas City's defense was, the offense was nearly as inept.

Just two days after having seven offensive players named to the Pro Bowl, the Chiefs went scoreless for 40 minutes before starting their run of 20 unanswered points. Priest Holmes scored three times to hike his season rushing TD total to 25, tying Emmitt Smith's single-season rushing TD record and falling just one short of Marshall Faulk's league mark for combined touchdowns (26). But that was Kansas City's only offensive hurrah.

When it was over, Hicks and Sims exchanged angry words over missed assignments, and reporters eventually were shooed out of the locker room during what Vermeil called "a pissing match."

The Chiefs tried hard to smooth things over afterward.

"The way we've been playing lately on defense has a lot of guys frustrated," cornerback Dexter McCleon said of the unit that was gashed for 330 yards and 24 unanswered points in the first half alone. "I'd be worried if guys weren't frustrated; I'd know something was wrong."

But something is seriously wrong with the Chiefs defense, now ranked 32nd in rushing yards, 30th in total yards and 22nd in points allowed.

Hardly a defense you want to take into the playoffs, even with the No. 2 seed and a bye week assured after Denver dispatched Indianapolis. That game assured the 12-3 Chiefs a conference-record tiebreaker over the 11-4 Colts heading into this week's regular-season finale against Chicago at Arrowhead. The Chiefs still have a shot at the #1 seed. If the New England Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday and the Chiefs defeat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, then Kansas City would be the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

Fixing those problems won't be as easy as getting Hicks and Sims to kiss and make up.


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